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6 Chocolate Treats That Are Actually Good for You

Chocoholics, rejoice! Accumulating research evidence shows that eating chocolate may improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and even reduce insulin resistance (Hooper et al., 2012). However, although cacao itself has been shown to have health benefits, many chocolate treats are loaded with butter, added sugar, and other ingredients that make them less than healthy. Fortunately, we have found a list of chocolate treats that are actually good for you. That means you can enjoy these cocoa-rich, healthy foods without feeling any guilt.

Chocolate-Coated Sunflower Seeds

If you’ve never enjoyed chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, they are a revelation. Coated with a brightly colored candy shell, these seeds look great in a candy dish (although they won’t last long). The crunchy sunflower seed interior provides a perfect contrast with the creamy milk chocolate exterior. Plus, the sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals in your body (WHFoods, 2014).

Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds

Dark chocolate is teeming with beneficial antioxidants, including the flavonoids called procyanidins, catechins, and epicatechins (Rao, 2011). These flavonoids are able to counteract oxidative damage, which accumulates in cells and is associated with inflammation and disease. In fact, people with high flavonoid levels have been shown to have lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer (Rao, 2011).

Even more exciting, almonds are a superfood in their own right. Eating a diet rich in almonds also reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (WHFoods, 2014). Do keep portion sizes in mind when eating dark chocolate covered almonds, as a serving is equivalent to a small handful of these snacks. Overindulging can increase your total caloric intake, as almonds are an energy dense food.

Rich Hot Cocoa

Sure, the cocoa beverages you get from chain coffeeshops are often laden with extra pumps of flavored syrup, mounds of whipped cream, and drizzles of chocolate syrup. But that doesn’t mean that hot cocoa has to be unhealthy. Make an antioxidant-rich cacao beverage at home by mixing 1 heaping tablespoon of raw cacao powder into a mug of hot milk (whether dairy or your favorite rice, nut, or soy milk). Add a bit of vanilla extract and agave syrup for sweetness and flavor.

If you’re truly craving whipped cream, it is easy to make a healthy vegan whipped cream from raw cashews. Just soak 1 cup of raw cashews in ½ cup of water for three hours. Blend the mixture in a food processor, adding 1 teaspoon of honey or agave syrup for natural sweetness. With a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cacao powder, your hot cocoa will be a restaurant-quality beverage.

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Strawberries are a healthy addition to any diet, and covering them with dark chocolate makes them even better. Like all berries, strawberries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A one cup serving of strawberries contains 149% of your recommended daily vitamin C, 9% of your folate, and 29% of your daily manganese (Self Nutrition Data, 2015). Plus, strawberries are a good source of dietary fiber, which promotes healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Dark chocolate covered strawberries add an elegant touch to your next date night or dinner party, yet they are dead simple to make. Simply melt some high-quality dark chocolate, dip each strawberry into the chocolate mixture, and place it on a piece of wax paper. For an extra special touch, drizzle the strawberries with melted white chocolate or sprinkle with crushed pistachios.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are a classic treat, but typical recipes are laden with butter and added sugars that make them an unhealthy choice. For a healthier alternative, you may swap a banana for the eggs, add heart-healthy rolled oats, and incorporate soy or almond milk for moisture (Lee, 2013).

Remember that the best chocolate chip cookies make the chocolate the star of the show. Selecting high-quality dark chocolate chips makes a huge difference in the end product. Alternatively, you may roughly chop a high-quality chocolate bar into pieces for a chocolate chunk effect.

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

Caffeine lovers will be thrilled to learn that chocolate covered espresso beans are incredibly healthy. The flavenols in espresso beans have strong antioxidant activity, protecting you from oxidative stress and environmental contaminants that cause cellular damage (Truex, n.d.). Plus, caffeine consumption has been linked to lower levels of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (Sagon, 2013). However, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Limit yourself to a one-ounce serving of chocolate covered espresso beans to avoid the negative effects of caffeine, such as jitteriness, rapid heart rate, and increased blood pressure (Sagon, 2013).

Recipes for Even More Healthy Chocolate Treats

These recipes offer some innovative ways to add that rich chocolate flavor to a wide variety of tasty treats to keep your lust for chocolate in check throughout the day.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Mug Cake

Gluten-Free Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe

For a quick cake that contains that chocolate taste you crave, keep this recipe handy for a simple means of making a mug-sized serving of a mouth watering confection that is sure to satisfy.
Ingredients: Coconut flour, milk, eggs, sugar, coconut oil, cacao powder, baking powder, vanilla extract.
Total Time: 10 minutes | Yield: 2 servings

Chocolate Banana Coconut Flour Muffins {gluten-free}

Chocolate Banana Coconut Flour Muffins Recipe {gluten-free}

For another confection with even more nutritional value and an even more enthralling palate, these muffins contain a blend of Greek yogurt, coconut flour and banana.
Ingredients: Coconut flour, Greek yogurt, eggs, bananas, unrefined sugar, dark chocolate, baking soda, vanliia extract
Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 12 muffins

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffle

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffle Recipe

A light bite that is packed with flavor, these tasty truffles derive their sweet savor from the natural sugars of dates and a light helping of agave syrup while cacao powder adds the beloved chocolate flavor.
Ingredients: Jumbo Mejdool dates, almond flour, chia seeds, flaxseed meal, cacao powder, agave or maple syrup, almond milk, unsweetened shredded coconut.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 24 truffles

No-Bake Granola Bars {gluten-free, vegan}

No-Bake Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

To treat yourself to the tantalizing taste in the middle of the day and without all the indulgence of a light dessert, these granola bars offer just enough chocolate to tide you over while also providing a source of essential nutrients.
Ingredients: Gluten-free rolled oats, peanut butter, dried tart cherries, pistachios, flaxseed meal, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, agave syrup. unsweetened applesauce, melted cacao nibs or dark chocolate.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 8 - 10 servings

Chocolate Coffee Flour Muffins

Chocolate Coffee Flour Muffins Recipe

If chocolate and banana feels like too much banana to quell your chocolate cravings than replace those delicious muffins with these ones and bake a batch of these coffee flour muffins today!
Ingredients: Coffee flour, cacao powder, baking soda, sugar, egg, milk, coffee, coconut oil, vanilla extract, salt, hazelnuts.
Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 16 muffins

Chocolate Goji Berry Bars {gluten-free}

Chocolate Goji Berry Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

Another selection to enjoy in the middle of the day that is formulated to fill your body with lasting energy, these berry bars include the superfoods goji berries and quinoa to up your nutritional intake!
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond butter, quinoa puffs, goji berries, raw pistachios, coconut oil, dark chocolate chips.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 8 bars

6 More Healthy, Chocolatey Snacks

For an added bonus, enjoy these six additional selections of wholesome, chocolate snacks. For more on cacao and cocoa, check out our articles on the differences between cacao and cocoa and 5 ways to use cacao powder.

References

Hooper et al. (2012). Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(3), 740-751. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/3/740.short

Lee, M. (2013). Cookie recipes that are guilt free. Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20727879,00.html

Rao, L. (2011). Dark chocolate can pack a big antioxidant wallop. Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/dark-chocolate-and-antioxidants-0

Sagon, C. (2013). Caffeine for your health -- too good to be true? American Association of Retired Persons. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-10-2013/coffee-for-health.html

Self Nutrition Data (2015). Strawberries. Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2064/2

Truex, L. (n.d.). What are the health benefits of chocolate covered espresso beans? The Nest. Retrieved from http://woman.thenest.com/health-benefits-chocolatecovered-espresso-beans-9046.html

WHFoods (2014a). Almonds. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20

WHFoods (2014b). Sunflower seeds. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=57